The band's experience is somewhat similar to that of Moby; many songs from Coldplay's first album can be heard on TV, in shopping centres, etc. For the year following the release of the first album, 'Parachutes', practically every shopping mall in the UK and Ireland had at least three Coldplay songs in their 10-song rotation.

I remember listening to the album just after it was released, and thinking 'hmm... this is different... relaxing, sedentary, musically interesting... very listenable'. Of course, these very qualities soon catapulted those songs to the top of playlists in many media. Songs like 'Yellow', 'Shiver', 'Sparks' and 'Don't Panic' became part of people's everyday lives.

And of course, within a week most serious music followers were sick of them. Don't ask whether this would have happened had they remained in relative obscurity. At least bands such as Stereophonics had a chance to work through a modestly-selling album (Word Gets Around) before becoming incredibly popular overnight (Performance & Cocktails).

There are probably still some singles left on 'Parachutes'; recently I sat down to listen to the album (much of the hype has faded now and shopping malls have turned back to Robbie for the time being). And it's actually a very good album. I equate 'Yellow' with Wheatus' 'Teenage Dirtbag' - an (arguably) very good song by itself, but played a little too much for its own good. The same can be said of most songs on Coldplay's 'Parachutes'.

Coldplay is one of the few bands that's been bringing good, non-manufactured music back to "Top 40" radio stations. Formed at the University College of London in early 1998, the band originally and currently consists of Chris Martin (vocals, piano, guitar; born March 7, 1977), Will Champion (drums; born July 31, 1977), Guy Berryman (bass guitar; born April 12, 1978), and Jon Buckland (lead guitar; born September 11, 1978).

In the beginning, before Coldplay was officially formed, the four UCL students enjoyed jamming together frequently, though at that time, each one of them played the guitar as their primary instrument. This changed, of course, as the band progressed and actually began writing and recording songs. Champion had originally intended to play lead guitar, hoping the band would find a new drummer, but as they became more and more successful, he found himself stuck on drums. After the release of their first few EPs, he didn't mind much.

Coldplay ignited the stage at a festival in Manchester for unsigned bands in mid-1998. Shortly thereafter came their first release, Safety, on the small, Yorkshire-based Fierce Panda label. It enjoyed wide acclaim by critics and the public alike, and gave rise to another EP; Brothers & Sisters was released in early 1999, along with another EP, Blue Room, which was the base upon which band’s debut album, Parachutes, was built. It was released and widely pushed by Parlophone Records and EMI all over the world.

With a cache of EPs and a new album under their belt, Coldplay began touring the UK and Europe, playing college campuses, coffeehouses, concert halls, TV shows (Eins Live and Harald Schmidt in Germany; Jo Whiley, Top of the Pops, and CD:UK in the UK; The Late Show with David Letterman, Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Conan O’Brien in the USA), and awards ceremonies (they had by this time been nominated for three Brit Awards for Parachutes). They recorded music videos for four of the first album’s ten tracks (in order: Shiver, Don’t Panic, Yellow, and Trouble), and perhaps as a consequence, the lanky, geekish Martin had become something of a sex symbol. In scores of interviews since then, however, he has retained his humility:

"I don't think about [being a sex symbol]. When I look in the mirror I see a slightly receding hairline." (San Francisco Chronicle, August 2002)

The constant touring started to wear on Martin's voice and he became prone to sore throats and bad colds, particularly during a short tour of the USA in early 2001. A number of concert cancellations because of it gave rise to the rumour of internal strife within the band and the UK music press went into a frenzy of printing the rumours. They persisted throughout the rest of 2001, as the band returned to the UK to begin work on their second album, and into mid-2002, when that album was released, and the band started touring again.

The album in question, A Rush of Blood to the Head, was released in the UK, the USA, and in Europe on August 27, 2002. On that date, Coldplay began a world tour in support of it, starting at the Olympia in Paris, France. (An excellent soundboard recording of this show1 can be found without too much effort on most P2P networks. Highly recommended.) A week later the band arrived in the USA to kick off an 11-date tour, all the stops of which were sold out, with one cancellation (The Masquerade2, an outdoor venue in Atlanta, Georgia, due to an imminent tropical storm in the area). Afterwards, they returned to the UK and sold out 10 of 14 dates there, before taking a break for a few months and then returning to the USA eventually in January and February, 2003, for 26 more dates.

Through it all, Coldplay has managed to not only "retain their pop sensibilities," but also get away with doing more or less whatever they want, musically. Very few popular bands have the option to do that, what with the heavy hand that most major record labels use to push their artists around. This hasn't stopped Chris Martin from becoming a celebrity; he's married to Gwyneth Paltrow, with whom he has a daughter called Apple.

"Rock'n'roll is about doing whatever the fuck you want. It doesn't have to be about doing huge amounts of drugs or being hedonistic. It's about not caring what anyone else thinks of you. Rock'n'roll is about the seeking of the ultimate pleasure. For us, that means hanging around together and playing music that we all love and not being afraid to say that's why we're doing it. We're a little too frank sometimes, and not as concerned with all the other stuff as we should be. That's fine, though. We just get on with doing it. We don't want to live up to anybody else's cliché." (Melody Maker, June 2000)

In February 2003, the single "In My Place" won a Grammy for "best alternative performance by a group or duo," and the album from whence it came, A Rush of Blood to the Head, won a Grammy for "best alternative album by a group or duo." My reaction to this was one of surprise, as it seems that the recording industry is finally able to recognize good music. Stop the press!


This is where my interest in Coldplay ended. The 2005 album X&Y didn't do much for me so I've been ignoring anything they put out after it. That's alright with me; I'm only just beginning to realize that to be a fan (of any music, really) doesn't mean I have to like everything put out by the bands I like. Anyway, I've seen freaking TV commercials for their follow-up album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (how pretentious!), and if that isn't a sign that they probably don't need anymore attention from me, I'm not sure what is. "Most ambitious album to date" indeed.

 

Footnotes:

1 Tracklist for the show at the Olympia in Paris on August 27, 2002:

01. Politik
02. Shiver
03. Spies
04. Daylight
05. Trouble
06. One I Love
07. Don't Panic
08. Everything's Not Lost
09. See You Soon
10. God Put a Smile Upon Your Face
11. Yellow
12. The Scientist
13. Clocks
14. In My Place
15. Life is for Living
16. Lips Like Sugar
17. Amsterdam

2 As my universally bad luck would have it, this was the date I had tickets to see. Of course it was canceled! If I hadn't driven all the way to Atlanta, I'm sure it would've proceeded as planned.

Men who listen to Coldplay albums are equivalent to women who buy Dido albums.

In fact, they probably date each other.

They go to the cinema together to see shit like 'You, Me and Dupree'.

He's either a Manchester United or a Chelsea fan, though he's never actually been to a game in his life.

She spends her time flicking through the pages of Heat magazine, thinking it constitutes putting down 'reading' on her list of hobbies.

He has an acoustic guitar because some day he wants to be like Chris Martin. He'll get around to learning a few chords any day now.

She drinks cheap white wine.

He drinks Stella.

The have sex once a week and have a repetoire of 3 positions. When he's drunk, he'd like to get nastier but she'll never let him.

He drives a second hand low-powered BMW 3 series yet still thinks he's the shit.

She drives either a Ford SportKa, or a Peugeot 206 convertible.

A fun weekend for them is going to Ikea for an afternoon to buy more cheap crap to fill their apartment with.

He sometimes watches shemale porn on his Windows laptop, but always clears his cookies.

She thinks she might have chlamydia from a one night stand she had a couple of months before they met, though she's too embarassed to see a doctor about it.

They eat microwave meals all the time, but she attempts to cook at the weekends. It's always crap though.

'Having people over' constitutes getting in 4 bottles of white and a slab of Stella, listening to Dido and Coldplay CDs on repeat while their friends secretly seethe and plot inventive ways to kill them.

Their son will be called Zach.

They will try to convince him that Chris Martin in an 'amazing songwriter'.

He will see through their shit and hate them for the rest of their lives.

All because of Coldplay.

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